It is a well-known fact that construction workers have a higher risk of on-the-job injuries than workers in other fields. Employees should also be aware that working on construction sites can increase the risk of developing cancer. Exposure to harmful substances on job sites over time can lead to a cancer diagnosis.
What Types of Cancer Are Construction Workers at Risk of Developing?
Every year in the U.S., approximately 20,000 cancer deaths and 40,000 new cases can be attributed to occupation, as stated by OSHA. Workers on construction sites are at risk of developing several different types of cancer, including:
- Lung cancer: This can be caused by breathing in hazardous particles or small fibers. Workers who inhaled crystalline silica particles have an increased risk of developing serious diseases, including lung cancer, which may appear decades after exposure. Inhaling diesel exhaust on construction sites has also been linked to lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma: Asbestos exposure has been identified as the cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive, fatal type of cancer that affects the lining around the organs of the chest and abdomen, particularly the lungs. Clouds of asbestos dust can permeate the air during asbestos removal in construction.
- Skin cancer: Continual exposure to the sun during construction work can increase the risk of skin cancer. UV rays can damage DNA in skin cells and are a leading cause of melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer that can spread rapidly throughout the body, often resulting in death.
What Are the Risk Factors for Cancer In the Construction Industry?
Workers in the construction industry face more risks on a daily basis than workers in other industries. Prolonged exposure to vapors, fumes, toxic chemicals, and hazardous substances can increase the risk of cancer for construction workers. Some of the main risk factors are exposure to asbestos, crystalline silica, diesel exhaust, and UV rays.
What Strategies Can Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer for Construction Workers?
Although the risk of cancer is present in construction work, prevention and mitigation strategies can help reduce that risk. Examples of such strategies include:
- Avoiding asbestos removal whenever possible by leaving undamaged materials in place
- Installing local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems in the workplace to capture contaminants at the source, remove them from the work area, and protect workers from hazardous substances
- Using wet suppression – water combined with a chemical surfactant or binding agent in the form of a spray, mist, or fog to control dust particles to help protect workers
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – specialized clothing or equipment, including masks and respirators, worn by workers for protection against hazardous materials
- Protecting the skin with SPF 30+ sunscreen, clothing, and/or shade equipment to mitigate the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers
Best practices for safety and health on construction sites include training, protective equipment, and hazard control measures. OSHA requires employers to administer medical questionnaires to employees exposed to asbestos above permissible limits and develop programs to enhance awareness of hazards, including risk assessments to determine threat of exposure to common causes of lung cancer and other illnesses.
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Construction Related Cancer Diagnosis?
If you have been diagnosed with cancer that may have been caused by exposure to hazards in construction work, workers’ compensation may not be sufficient to cover everything you have lost. You may have a third-party claim for compensation against a site owner, contractor, or other negligent party.
Contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP at (212) 986-7353 to schedule a free consultation. Our New York personal injury attorneys are known for experience, compassion, and results. We can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be entitled to claim.